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Social Distancing While Making Films and in Movies? Insiders Wonder How to Make it Work

Movie shooting

Movie shooting

Film industry insiders grapple with the uncertainties of life and work after lockdown and contemplate the dimensions of a radical makeover.

  • PTI
  • Last Updated: May 10, 2020, 11:56 AM IST
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The making of a movie without large crews and outdoor shoots and movies themselves sans party scenes, background dancers or even the staple romantic clinches that could be the existential crisis facing mainstream cinema in the immediate post-corona world.


Bollywood, after all, has always been about people, whether on screen or off it, in front of the camera or behind it, say industry insiders as they grapple with the uncertainties of life and work after lockdown and contemplate the dimensions of a radical makeover.


Filmmaking has always been a collaborative effort with hundreds of people working in tandem to translate the written word into images but that may change. Producers and directors also wonder how they will manage social distancing with a large crew once they are back on sets.


According to actor-producer Sanjay Suri, there will be behavioural changes on the sets and "cinematic intimacy will take time to return".

"Not because of lack of ideas but purely behavioural changes on sets in terms of being careful about hygiene and not overcrowding among other things. It surely is an area of concern," Suri told PTI.

A film crew, including the director and stars to technicians and makeup artistes, work in close "physical proximity" round the clock under one roof. And sometimes even in "suffocating spaces", he said.


And it's not just about the process of movie making but also what goes into the scenes.

"I can't imagine us sweating and close dancing in a film immediately. We surely will have to reinvent a working style and be cautious," Suri, who co-produced "I Am" and "Sorry Bhai", said.


Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra said he cannot fathom the challenges ahead for people in the entertainment business.

"Most of the difficulties will be faced by those who shoot. I don't know how 250 people will shoot till a vaccine is not in place... Will you test everyone, then head outdoors to shoot? Post this, we will start living differently, being cautious will become a habit."

The "Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi" director said a minimum unit for a shoot today involves 150 people.

"All that has to change. Our method of working has to change until that vaccine comes in. Even later, we have to evolve another way of working. The cinema business will necessary change because it's a social experience."

It isn't just the intimacy of people working together on the sets which stands to change. How to shoot on-screen intimacy will also be an issue.


Everything, including shooting and stories, will have to be rethought, he said.

"Every time I see an old film now in which a young couple is meeting, it seems odd, like you can't do that anymore. The world has drastically changed. We will need to rethink our stories as well," he added.

In an Instagram post, filmmaker Shoojit Sircar wondered about shooting such scenes in the post coronavirus world.


"How the cinema world conducts shooting intimate scenarios in the film to be seen and planned, after all this is over. Especially, the intimate kissing/hugging scenes. How close or how far.. or cheat story telling in those intimate scenes for sometime," the "Piku" director said.

In a recent interview with PTI, Sircar wondered about the impact of the pandemic on film narratives.


When a change of mindset happens there is a change that I expect around the world. It is definitely going to change the narrative of filmmaking style and also the narrative of story-telling, it will have an effect but what kind is difficult to say as India is huge in terms of consumption," Shoojit told PTI.

Amanda Cutting, who has worked as intimacy coordinator on the prequel pilot of "Game of Thrones" and "The Magicians" and has been roped in by producer Prabhleen Kaur and OTT platform MX player for the web-series "Mastram", believes filming kissing and intimate scenes may become a concern even after lockdown restrictions are lifted.


"I do feel that we will need to ramp up sanitation procedures and safe distancing to support filming. Potentially limit crew and persons involved in the scene to protect the community as a whole. It will also mean we will need to get creative on how we show intimacy, can it be done without kissing - it is my opinion - yes, absolutely," Cutting, who is locked down at her home in Canada, told PTI in an email interview.


Actor Dia Mirza said the worry right now is bigger than just "shooting" an intimate scene.

"The entire process of making a film is intimate. So many people, all coming together to create moment after moment in unity and synchronised effort... How will all that change? Will we be masked and wear gloves as a crew? Only time will tell," she said.

Veteran filmmaker Ramesh Sippy said he is hopeful about the future of cinema, which he said always found a way, whether during the TV boom in the 90s or during the digital invasion.

"The impact of the pandemic will be there. But man is a creature of readjustment. There will be some hits, some blows, and some new adventurous things might happen. I have great faith in our endeavour. Somewhere out of all this chaos, something will happen," Sippy said.

"My Brother, Nikhil" director Onir, however, has a different view and believes there won't be major shifts.


"We are romanticising when we say we will wake up to a new world. We are a very divided society, very easy for the privileged lot to say we are changing. A certain class can't change because they don't have the same privilege...

"Two world wars, huge number of deaths didn't change human beings from their hate narrative. Even now people are busy with it. So where is it changing? Obviously, films will reflect what has happened but I don't see us radically changing as a society."

In a cheeky tweet, director Krishna DK, part of the directing duo behind "Go Goa Gone", spoke of how he felt awkward watching a show where the characters indulged in as basic as hand shakes and hugs.

"And I haven't seen a single person use sanitiser! No common sense or what?!" he joked.

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